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December 8th, 2009:

Runoff EV wrapup

The final tally is in, and after 13,534 in person votes were cast today, a total of 66,909 have been counted so far. This compares to 80,516 early votes for the November election.

Except it doesn’t, since that total represents all of Harris County. In reality, 62,641 early in person and mail ballots were cast in the Mayor’s race last month. But the total for the runoff is an overstatement as well, since West U Bellaire has a runoff going, too. Going by the Johnston report, a hair over 95% of the ballots through Thursday were actually City of Houston. Assuming that same ratio holds for today, I calculate 63,600 early votes for the municipal races. Which is to say, not much difference.

So the question at this point is whether you believe the ratio of early votes in the runoff will be less than, the same as, or greater than the ratio from the general election. As we know, 35% of all votes in November were cast before Election Day. For the last three municipal elections, this is how the ratios compare:

2003 Nov = 25% early
2003 Dec = 36% early

2005 Nov = 27% early
2005 Dec = 37% early

2007 Nov = 30% early
2007 Dec = 46% early

If this year holds to pattern, something like 45% of the vote has already been cast, which pegs us at a total city turnout of about 141,000. I think that’s a little low, but it wouldn’t shock me. If we get the same proportion of Election Day voters this month as we did last month, we’ll have about the same number of total voters. I think that’s less likely, but it wouldn’t shock me, either. I do think it’s unlikely we’ll get much more than that, however.

You may ask, What about 2001, the last time there was an African-American candidate in the runoff? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you. The County Clerk’s elections results page has the November election result, which shows that a mere 20% of the vote was cast early, but for reasons unclear the December result is unavailable there. I’ve put in an inquiry, since the Houston City Secretary’s page only has the final number, without the early/election day breakdown; I’ll post something when and if I get the data. I suppose it’s possible that there could be a surge in African-American voters on Saturday as there was eight years ago to keep Lee Brown in office. I don’t see any evidence of it in the early voting numbers, but it could happen.

Anyway, that’s what the numbers suggest to me. What do you think the final tally will be?

UPDATE: Bellaire, not West U, has a runoff going. My apologies for the confusion, and my thanks to Corbett Parker, who is actually running in one of those Bellaire runoffs, for the correction.

Jolanda versus the world

If you’re on Carl Whitmarsh’s mailing list, you’ve probably seen this, which is one of several mailers being sent out by the Jack Christie campaign. That one is going to the Heights, Montrose, and District C. The others are this one, being sent to voters in Council Districts A and G; this one, being sent to voters in District E; and this one, also being sent to voters in District C.

Looking at all of these, I think it’s safe to say that Council Member Jones has alienated a number of her colleagues. I can’t recall anything like this in recent years, where sitting members have openly support a challenger to a colleague. (Did anyone do this to Shelley Sekula Gibbs in 2003 when Peter Brown ran against her?) What’s damning about it is that much like the earlier mailer Christie sent out, it uses Jones’ own words and actions against her. I like CM Jones. I think she has a lot of talent, I think she represents a constituency that otherwise doesn’t have much of a voice, and I think she has the potential to do a lot of good. But she has definitely provided her critics with a lot of ammunition, and it’s stunning to see so many of her fellow Council members try to oust her like this. If she does survive, it’ll be very interesting to see what her relationship with these members will be like going forward. I’m thinking it’ll be awkward for awhile.

With all that said, I don’t think anyone has too much trouble with CMs Lawrence, Clutterbuck, Sullivan, and Holm, all of whom are on the opposite side of the political fence as Jones and none of whom are currently involved in an election of their own, supporting a fellow member of their party. The mailer by CM Lovell is the explosive one. It’s a little bizarre to think that at this time in 2007, Lovell was working to help Jones get elected. The relationship fell apart pretty quickly after the election, and the two have been feuding ever since. I happen to think that Sue Lovell is also a pretty good Council member, but it’s no secret that she is not the forgiving type. She has reportedly been telling donors not to contribute to Jones. I’m not going to defend what Jones said about HPFFA President Jeff Caynon, which is the basis of Lovell’s attack on her, though I will note that Jones did get a $1000 contribution from the Houston chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters. But I believe Lovell crossed a line here, and judging from what I’ve seen elsewhere, that may be one of the more restrained reactions to this. If Lovell was still thinking about running for County Clerk next year, something that already seemed unlikely with the entrance of Sue Schechter and her show of strength early on, I’d say her odds of getting nominated just got a lot longer. Not to mention the fact that she still has an election of her own to win. She’s certainly stuck her neck out, I’ll say that much.

I guess what really bothers me about this is precisely that both Jones and Lovell are talented Council members. All of this is just a needless distraction and a waste of energy. I wish Jones had not put herself in this position but had instead channeled her energy and passion on Council in more productive ways. I hope that should she survive this election, it will spur her to do exactly that. I wish Lovell would learn to put things behind her and focus on what’s ahead. I hope whatever happens in their respective races, the next City Council finds a way to work together and help the new Mayor deal with the challenges that we face. Surely we all deserve that.

UPDATE: The Lovell mailer was sent out by her campaign, not by Christie’s. My apologies for the confusion.

Eight days out finance reports, At Large candidates

Continuing on with our look at the eight days out reports, here’s how things stack up for the At Large Council candidates in the runoffs.

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Derr 26,692 13,034 5,000 5,487 8,650 32.4 Costello 193,225 165,200 15,000 16,065 71,000 36.7 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Derr 0 0 0 0 250 Costello 125,000 0 0 4,200 6,000

First, if I didn’t already know Costello was an engineer, I might have guessed it from his exceedingly orderly finance report, in which PAC and corporate donations were separated from individual ones, and each were alphabetized. As with the general election, he continues to raise money like gangbusters, and is putting a lot of it into TV ads. I have no idea what Derr is doing beyond having a presence at the early vote locations and all those yard signs that have been in place for months. It’s almost bizarre comparing the finances of these two candidates, in that if you knew nothing else you’d expect Costello to win without breaking a sweat. But Derr has nearly all of the establishment Democratic support, and with the primary history of early voters being roughly 60D/30R, with the rest having no primary history, that may be enough. Here are the current and former officeholders and candidates who have donated to each:

Derr – State Rep. Garnet Coleman (500), State Rep. Ana Hernandez (100), former At Large #4 candidate Deborah Shafto (50)

Costello – Lonnie Allsbrooks (200), former Council Member Gracie Saenz (75), UH Board of Trustees President Welcome Wilson (250)

Coleman’s name will appear on the report of every candidate he endorsed. Rep. Hernandez’s husband Greg Luna also chipped in $100 to Derr. Allsbrooks held a meet-and-greet for Costello at Beer Island over the weekend, according to a postcard I got in the mail from Allsbrooks. That’s more mail than either candidate has apparently sent recently.

Moving on to At Large #2:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Lovell 75,104 59,791 0 102,896 39,758 52.9 Burks 12,030 13,118 10,000 964 1,750 14.5 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Lovell 51,255 0 1,500 0 0 Burks 0 1,959 3,000 1,250 430

Again, no real contest in terms of who raised what, though in this case it really is the case that Lovell ought to win, if not that easily. I confess, I don’t get why she’s sitting on $100K in cash – that $51K won’t buy that much TV time (though I did finally see one of her ads on the air, during “The Closer” last night), and there’s little else to her outreach. I might have sent some mail or done some phonebanking or something. We’ll see how it goes for her. Here’s the officeholder/candidate list for each:

Lovell – Coleman (1000), Council Member Jarvis Johnson (100), Don Large (100), District Judge Randy Roll (50), State Rep. Ellen Cohen (50)

Burks – Dexter Handy (100), Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney (100), Constable May Walker (250), Farouk Shami (1000)

I have no idea what the Shami-Burks connection is. Anyone want to guess?

And finally, At Large #5:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Jones 80,248 33,016 0 49,957 22,358 27.9 Christie 42,925 68,714 500 35,844 10,500 24.5 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Jones 0 8,000 20,000 0 0 Christie 0 956 56,267 5,310 0

Jones has raised a respectable amount, but Christie has spent more, putting a huge sum into an effective attack mailer. She’s still got to be the favorite based on partisan affinity, but this may be the tightest race of the bunch. The list of who gave what to whom contains a couple of interesting bits:

Jones – Burney (150), Saenz (50), Handy (100), Coleman (1000), Ron Reynolds, Democratic candidate for State Rep. in Fort Bend, (250), State Rep. Kristi Thibaut (1000), District Judge Steve Kirkland (250), State Sen. John Whitmire (1000), State Rep. Sylvester Turner (400), Saenz (75), John Sharp (3000), US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (250), Wilson (500), Roll (50), former State Rep. (running again in 2010) Borris Miles (1000)

Christie – Council Member Anne Clutterbuck (10,000), Chase Untermeyer (250), State Rep. Beverly Woolley (500)

Clutterbuck’s $10K donation from her campaign fund is by far the biggest donation from any of the politicos, and is nearly 25% of Christie’s total haul for this period. It’s also the only example I saw of a Council member donating to the opponent of a sitting member. That could liven up some future committee meetings. I guess I have to take back what I said about Ronald Green getting the most donations from colleagues, as it sure looks like Jones has him beat on that score.

Just the district Council races to go. I should have those tomorrow.

Locke backers funded Hotze


The finance chairman and a finance committee member of Gene Locke’s mayoral campaign helped bankroll the conservative political action committee that sent out an anti-gay mailer targeting City Controller Annise Parker and other municipal candidates earlier this month, according to Texas Ethics Commission documents.


Locke has been dogged by Parker, her supporters and some uncommitted Democrats for seeking the endorsement of conservative activist Steven Hotze, who has a long history of opposing gay candidates and causes. A mail piece Hotze sent out last week urged voters not to choose Parker and several others seeking municipal offices because they were “endorsed by gay lesbian political action committee,” a reference to Houston’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Political Caucus. It labeled others as “radical liberals” and supported some candidates based on a record of fiscal conservatism.

According to financial documents, Hotze’s political action committee received a $20,000 donation about a week before the mail pieces went out from Ned Holmes, finance chairman of Locke’s campaign, and $20,000 from James Dannenbaum, who is on Locke’s finance committee.

Hotze’s PAC, Conservative Republicans of Harris County, lists $56,000 in donations between Oct. 25 and Dec. 2. Only two other donors, who contributed a total of $16,000, are listed.

Martha has scans of the Hotze mailer, while Erik has the finance report for Hotze’s GPAC, which shows the contributions. Surely no one thinks the timing of the donations is a coincidence, right? Maybe Hotze could have found some other sugar daddies to help him peddle his bigotry, but he didn’t. It’s now clear why Locke never denounced Hotze.

As for the countercharges from Locke’s campaign that Annise Parker helped pay for the Roy Morales mailer, well, that’s true. You can see the disclaimer on the mailer that it was paid for by his campaign and hers. Roy’s a twit, but he’s no Hotze. Team Locke complains in the story that Roy demanded an unreasonably large fee, which they claim and he denies would have gone towards Roy’s campaign debt, to be included in the mailer. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know. If their objection was the price, they’re not claiming a parallel to Hotze. The answers Parker gave on Roy’s mailer are consistent with what she’s been saying on those issues all along, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Stace and John have more.

Statesman profiles White

We’re probably going to see a lot of stories like this in the coming weeks, as the papers outside of Houston inform their readers about the new Democratic candidate for Governor. That one is a nice, thorough effort, which among other things served to remind me that Dan Patrick, in his role as Rick Perry surrogate, is going to be one of Bill White’s more vocal critics. Which is fine by me – I love an election that’s clearly about good versus evil. I’m quoted in the story, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out. And if you attended that rally in Austin for White, please leave a comment and let us know how it was. BOR has more.

More on BAE Systems

Just a followup on the BAE Systems situation, which I didn’t get around to blogging about last week. I see that in addition to everything else he’s got going on, Mayor White will be trying to save BAE’s contract, along with Sen. Hutchison and Rep. Mike McCaul, whose electoral prospects may hinge to some degree on the outcome. Maybe not too much, since apparently the Mayor of Sealy is firmly in his corner, but I feel pretty confident that the issue will arise during the campaign. I don’t know how much stock to put in the claims that are being made by the various elected officials that there’s something amiss with the bidding process, but this continues to puzzle me:

In response to public information requests from the Lone Star Project, a Democratic advocacy effort, Pentagon officials said they received no written communication from McCaul’s office about the Sealy operation for more than four years leading up to their decision.

“The fundamental job of a member of Congress, particularly a junior member of Congress, is to pay attention to the needs of their district, to be aware when federal contracts are available or at risk,” said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project.

McCaul said, “My office has been in regular contact with BAE Systems prior to and during the rebid process and been fully supportive of their efforts to retain the contract, which at no time was thought to be in danger until the Army’s unexpected and dubious decision to award it to Oshkosh.”

No written communication? Not so much as an email? That’s pretty strange. Did anyone take notes from the phone conversations they had, or minutes at the meetings?

I’ll ask again: How is it that nobody – not McCaul, not KBH, not John Cornyn – had any idea this was going down? Do they not have any sources inside the Army that could have tipped them to the fact that their guy’s bid wasn’t measuring up? Is the security of the process that good? McCaul’s statement here seems in conflict with this:

BAE employees expressed concern to McCaul aides around late 2007 that the Army was seeking bids for the production of the trucks made in Sealy. Many of the trucks had already been made, and they found it unusual that the Army would seek bids for the rest of those trucks. McCaul’s office relayed that concern to the Army.

In response, Army officials praised BAE’s work but said they would move forward with their plan to seek competitive bids, McCaul spokesman Mike Rosen said.

Surely BAE must have had a reason to be worried beyond the obvious fact that having a competitor means the possibility of losing. What was McCaul doing between then and September when the contract was officially awarded? Maybe he was working at it, and maybe there was nothing he could have done. I just have a hard time understanding how this could have caught people like McCaul off guard.

Council to hear Ashby appeal

Via Nancy Sarnoff, the developers of the Ashby Highrise will appeal the dismissal of their appeal of not getting everything they wanted when their project was finally approved back in August. There’s a public hearing Tuesday and a Council vote Wednesday (assuming no tag), and they’ll have company for each. I presume they’ll eventually lose, and then we’ll see if they go ahead anyway, or file a lawsuit. This may be a mess that the Mayor after the one we elect on Saturday inherits.